One of my goals this year is to try out 3 new vegetables, 3 different ways. The intention is to get me out of my comfort zone and try new combinations and flavours. The first vegetable I decided I had to try is eggplant – I know, who hasn’t cooked with eggplant? Well I haven’t. And I’ve passed it numerous times in the grocery store feeling like it was this daunting vegetable, mysterious and purple. So this past weekend when my hubby picked up some groceries I asked him to grab an eggplant for me.
I should mention that Tavis was not a huge fan of my choice. Though I can’t say I’ve ever tried eggplant (not that I know of anyways), he has and he didn’t like it. I knew I was going to have a tough critic on my hands, so that informed my decision to try a twist on eggplant parmesan for my first attempt – after all, eggplant parmesan is the classic eggplant dish! I took my inspiration from a multitude of recipes online for roasted eggplant (so many recipes!), and this recipe from Martha Stewart for eggplant and mozzarella melts (basically an eggplant parmesan sandwich). I didn’t want to use the recipe itself because it had some bad reviews, but also because I wanted to roast the eggplant instead of breading and frying it.
I don’t have any pictures of my process because I ended up babysitting our niece and nephew the night I made this, so my hands were kinda full! But the bonus was that I knew I’d get some brutally honest reviews from the kiddos! It was actually very cute, because they’d never tried eggplant before either so they wanted to touch it and smell it when I cut it open. I smelled it too… smelled a lot like squash, go figure (eggplant is a squash, for those who didn’t know).
So I cut the top of the eggplant off and sliced it lengthwise into ½” thick pieces. I coated them in some oil and sprinkled them with pepper, garlic powder, and salt, and I roasted them at 350 C for 30 minutes. They came out perfect, and I was quite proud of this since I’d never cooked eggplant and this time/temp was just a guess.
In the meantime, I made a basic tomato sauce with onion, garlic, canned tomatoes, canned tomato sauce, and tomato paste. I added pepper, oregano, and jazzed it up with some fresh parsley and basil from our garden (love fresh herbs!). Once it cooked for a while, I pureed the lot with my immersion blender; this thing is easily my favourite kitchen gadget!!
To assemble, I toasted some buns under the broiler for a couple minutes. Then I moved the tops to a plate, and worked with the bottoms, layering tomato sauce, eggplant, more sauce, and then mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. I broiled them for another 5 minutes until it was all melty and bubbly. I popped the tops of the buns back on and served. We also had some corn on the cob to go with our sandwiches.
So how well was it received? Very well! Tavis really liked it – he ate two; if he goes for seconds, I know the recipe is a success. As for the kidlets, our niece dove right in and got pretty messy in the process, but she seemed to like it. At one point I mentioned that maybe we should have used a bib, and she gave me this absolutely incredulous look which made me laugh; I guess 3 is too old for bibs (I should have known, obviously)! Our nephew was not so enthused initially because he’s older and a bit cautious about trying new things. Once he saw the rest of us digging in and slopping tomato sauce on our plates though, he was eager to get messy with us and he said he liked it. He even said that I have good cooking skills… such high praise from a 5-year-old! Ha ha… I love those kids!
As for me, I really liked this dish. The eggplant went well with the seasonings on it, and with the tomato sauce and cheese. I liked the texture too, kind of creamy and a tad chewy from the roasting process. I think for my second attempt I’ll need to make something that will really highlight the flavour of the eggplant itself though. We’ll see what I can find for inspiration…
So attempt #1 at eggplant was a resounding success! Tavis and I will likely dig into the leftovers tonight. I think the lesson here is: cover anything with tomato sauce and cheese and put it on a bun, and it’s almost guaranteed to taste great!
Have you ever cooked with eggplant?